Buccaneers at Panthers: Defense Fails as Carolina Drops Another Winnable Game

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Buccaneers at Panthers: Defense Fails as Carolina Drops Another Winnable Game
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers are 2-8 after losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. After seven losses, it seemed that the Panthers had shown every possible way to get beaten.

When Carolina dropped its eighth game, the Panthers found a new way to lose.

The Panthers have dropped games late because of turnovers and predictable defensive play-calling, but the Panthers had never been flat out run over. Not until the Bucs did that at the end of their Week 11 matchup.

With 1:02 left on the clock and the Panthers clinging to an eight-point lead, the Bucs went to work. Josh Freeman’s first pass was incomplete, as was his second. But a Thomas Davis unnecessary roughness penalty gave Tampa Bay a first down.

Freeman hit running back Doug Martin and wide receiver Vincent Jackson to move the ball into Carolina territory before, with 20 seconds left in the game, he hit Jackson again for a 24-yard score.

Even though Jackson was covered by linebacker Luke Kuechly—likely not the best idea for Carolina with the game on the line—the Panthers had help. In fact, Freeman’s scoring pass was threaded in between two defenders, with a third crossing nearby.

Tampa Bay still needed a two-point conversion, and Freeman went toward Jackson again. Carolina didn’t have a quick enough transition from Captain Munnerlyn to Sherrod Martin, and Jackson easily caught the pass to tie the game.

The Buccaneers got the ball first in the overtime period and quickly used Martin to churn yardage down the field. Freeman hit Jackson again in the overtime drive, but the dagger to Carolina’s heart came because linebacker James Anderson fell down in coverage, allowing Dallas Clark an easy touchdown reception to end the game.

Tampa Bay scored the last 16 points of the game, and their final drive in regulation went for 80 yards in just 50 seconds. Their overtime drive was another 80-yard show of force. The difference was that it took eight plays to score instead of the seven-play drive earlier.

Finger-pointing is easy in a game like this, but don’t look toward the offense. Even though Carolina needed help from the defense just to score 21 points, any time you hand a defense an eight-point lead with just at a minute to play, a victory should be the expectation.

 

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.

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